A-level and GCSE grades awarded in 2023 will be lower on average than this summer, the Department for Education has announced, as it confirmed plans to return rates to pre-pandemic levels.
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While the DfE and Ofqual, the exam regulator for England, said some help would stay in place for those whose learning was disrupted, school leaders and experts warned that those students most badly affected by Covid were most likely to suffer from the downward adjustment.
Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute, said she remained concerned about the impact on disadvantaged students: “This will inevitably store up problems for social mobility in England in the longer term.”
Ms Perera also questioned why the DfE and Ofqual had decided to confirm their plans so far in advance. “Giving three years’ notice may provide some stability for schools and colleges, but it is unclear what benefit this provides for pupils taking these exams in 2023. It could cause anxiety for some pupils worried about how their grades might be affected.”
The DfE and Ofqual said that, as part of the plans, any student taking exams in summer 2023 who received a grade below a C in either English or maths at GCSE would be allowed to retake the exam free of charge.
However, school leaders warned that this alone would not be enough to mitigate the impact of lower grades. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The truth is that resits will not address all the problems caused by students losing out on months of education this year.”
Mr Barton also criticised the decision to return grades to pre-Covid levels, saying it was “simply unfair” on students the pandemic had impacted.
This year, exams in England were cancelled, and grades were instead awarded based on teachers’ assessments, with Ofqual introducing a moderation process to ensure consistency across schools. This resulted in nearly one in five A-level results being downgraded, prompting widespread criticism from students, parents and teachers.
What do you think of the plans to return grades to pre-Covid levels? Are you a student who will be affected by this? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
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